Do You Need An Amplifier For In-Ceiling Speakers?

Norvan Martin
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If you’re trying to create the ultimate home theater system with complete and immersive surround sound, you’re most likely considering in-ceiling speakers.

These speakers offer an unbeatable sleek profile and an immersive audio experience. However, installing them can be very tricky.

In-Ceiling Speakers

Besides the trouble of installing them, you might also be wondering whether you’ll need the usual support hardware like receivers and amplifiers.

In this article, we answer the question, do you need an amplifier for in-ceiling speakers?

Will I Need an Amplifier for In-Ceiling Speakers?

You will need an amplifier for in-ceiling speakers when using passive in-ceiling speakers. However, you don’t need an amplifier if your in-ceiling speakers are active. A receiver will also be necessary if you plan on routing multi-channel surround sound to other speakers.

Let’s explain why!

Most in-ceiling speakers on the market are passive. However, the choice of using a receiver or an amplifier depends on the intended use of your sound system.

You’ll also need to understand the difference between active and passive ceiling speakers to make the right choice. Read on.

Why Do You Need An Amplifier With Passive Ceiling Speakers?

Active vs Passive Ceiling Speakers

What’s the difference between passive and active speakers and which should you use?

Active speakers are designed with built-in amplifiers and so need a power source (outlet or battery) to vs passive ceiling speakers

They are ‘powered’ speakers. On the other hand, passive speakers are not designed with internal amplifiers and so need an external amplifier to operate.

However, these speakers do not need an external power source, they are powered by an external amplifier. 

The most common types of in-ceiling speakers available on the market today are passive and need to be connected to a dedicated amplifier using speaker cables.

Connecting passive speakers to your amplifier is relatively easy as it simply involves attaching the speaker wires. 

The main advantage of passive speakers is that they’re flexible enough to go as far as your cable can reach. 

You can also choose from various speaker sizes ranging from 2″ to 8″ at different price points to enjoy your desired sound quality.

Active Or Passive: Which Do I Choose For In Ceiling Speakers?

There are various advantages of active vs passive speakers as far as in-ceiling speakers are concerned.

Advantages of Using Passive Speakers

We already mentioned that most in-ceiling speakers are passive. This is for good reasons, the most important reasons being:

passive ceiling speakers

  1. Long Distance: Passive speakers can be connected over long distances because you only need inexpensive speaker wires to connect them.  On the other hand, active speakers need to be close to a power source. 
  2. Can Be More Powerful: You can use various amplifiers from different manufacturers and different power output ratings to connect your passive speaker. This means you can choose the maximum power-rated amplifier to match your speakers. On the other hand, the power output of an active amplifier is limited to the output of the internal amp. 
  3. Flexibility: With passive speakers, you can start with a low-power amp and upscale your system easily as needed.
  4. Inexpensive Upgrades and Servicing: You can easily upgrade your amplifier or speakers separately without having to replace your entire audio system. For example, if the amplifier breaks down, you don’t need to replace the speakers. 
  5. Easy Installation: Passive speakers are lightweight and easier to install. However, they can be easier to remove. Removing in ceiling speakers is generally a bit tricky, so you need to know what you are doing. 

Advantages of Using Active Speakers

However, there are some benefits of using active speakers for in-ceiling speakers These are:

  1. Easy Solution/Easy Installation: The upside of active speakers is that they’re the easiest solution for in-ceiling speakers. They are an all-in-one solution. Considering the easy installation, active in-ceiling speakers are becoming popular for dining rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. When installing, you’ll only need a socket above your ceiling and connect the speaker directly to the power circuit.
  2. Easy Connectivity/Plug and Play: Most of these speakers add a Bluetooth receiver to the amplifier, making them a plug-and-play solution – you only need to power it up and connect your Bluetooth device to start enjoying your music.
  3. Multiple Unit Pairing: Another advantage of active in-ceiling speakers is that you can use a single speaker or pair up to three units for larger rooms. However, that comes with some size restrictions, as it needs to have enough space for the amplifier and Bluetooth receiver.  These speakers are fine for small rooms, though larger rooms can prove to be a bit more expensive since you need to pair multiple systems together.
  4. Equipment Cost: With passive speakers, you don’t need an expensive external amplifier or long runs of cables, so they can be less expensive. 

As you can see, your choice of passive vs active speakers for in-ceiling speakers depends on your setup and your own needs. If you need an all-in-one solution for a small space, you can use an active speaker.

active ceiling speakersHowever, if you need a more flexible solution in a larger space, a passive speaker is the better option. 

Of course, if you are using an active speaker, you will not need an external amplifier for your in-ceiling speakers.

However, if you are using passive speakers, you will need an external amplifier for your in-ceiling speakers. 

Should You Use an Amplifier or Receiver to Power In-Ceiling Speakers?

If you’re new to home theater systems, then you need to understand the basics of how receivers and amplifiers work.

An amplifier, as its name suggests amplifies sound. This means that it takes the weak sound signal from your TV or another device and increases the power of the signal so that it can be louder when playing through the audio system. 

An A/V receiver, on the other hand, serves as the nerve center of your home theater system.

AV receivers perform a wide range of important functions such as signal decoding, switching between audio and video components, driving speakers, and more.

As far as an amplifier is concerned, a receiver adds more functionality to the amplifier’s capabilities.

Most feature an inbuilt amplifier and can also act as a volume control device, tuner, radio, and more.

Some models are also designed to alter the audio quality, with others having video handling capabilities, helping to manage all your inputs from one place.

You can connect in ceiling speakers directly to a receiver, but the receiver must be able to handle the speakers and the impedances must be matched. 

What’s The Best Choice For Powering In-Ceiling Speakers?

Considering that both amplifiers and receivers will work with passive in-ceiling speakers, your choice depends on your current audio setup.

For instance, if you want in-ceiling speakers for listening to loud music, then an amplifier would be great to maximize the signal.

how to power in ceiling speakers

Also, amplifiers tend to be less expensive than receivers, and they’re also simpler to use. Even better, newer models might also include cutting-edge features.

For a home theater system intended to provide a surround-sound cinematic experience for movies, a receiver is the better choice.

That’s because a receiver acts as your home theater’s central hub, relaying both audio and video signals from the source to your output media devices.

That means a quality receiver should convert and relay signals to every speaker to ensure the surround sound system works as intended.

Moreover, they come with a load of features for connecting different media devices and fine-tuning your movie experience. 

All in all, we generally recommend that you go with a receiver if you are unsure. This is because the massive increase in functionality that you will get with a receiver is a bigger benefit than just amplification.

If you are interested in playing loud music, you can always get a receiver and an amplifier if your budget allows it. 


Are There In-Ceiling Speakers that Don’t Require an Amp or Receiver?

If you read the above, you should be able to answer this question. 

The answer is yes!

While most in-ceiling speakers are passive and require an amplifier, active models are growing in popularity and these do not require an amp. 

active speaker connection ceiling speaker

Yes! While the majority of in-ceiling speakers are passive, there are active models that are growing in popularity.

It’s however important to realize that active in-ceiling speakers work differently than other regular active speakers.

There are two types of active-in ceiling speakers:

1. With Separate Amp: Some active in-ceiling speakers come with a separate, smaller amplifier that gets installed alongside the in-ceiling speaker. These are similar to passive speakers, except that the small amp that you get won’t be as powerful as an external amp that you would probably purchase separately. 

active in ceiling speakers

2. Baffle Box: Some speakers have a baffle box that is connected to the speaker’s head. This makes it an all in one unit as we discussed above. 

Regardless of your choice of active speaker, you can use a receiver with either type of active speaker system.

You will find that this is the route many people take (active speaker and receiver over passive speaker and amplifier) when installing their home theater system. 

How Many In-Ceiling Speakers Will You Need?

Realistically, the number of in-ceiling speakers you’ll need depends on the shape and size of your room, intended use, and the expected sound level.

You’ll also need to consider whether you have other speakers on your home theater system. However, it’s better to have many speakers in your room than not have enough.

These tips will help you estimate the number of in-ceiling speakers you’ll need:

Try And Strike A Balance

When developing a home audio system, balance your speakers by pairing them up for the best audio quality.

For instance, you can have a pair of in-ceiling speakers behind the sitting area and two more on the front. That creates a balance that will most likely give you a consistent sound quality.

Consider The Number Of Speaker In Your System

If you want to pair the ceiling speakers with your existing surround sound system, you’ll need fewer speakers.

A pair of ceiling speakers will be more than enough in small rooms, especially if you combine them with soundbars, wall-mounted or floor speakers.

Ceiling speakers work best as an addition to your current speaker system, instead of treating them like the main speaker setup. That’s why you should aim for a pair or two in-ceiling speakers and combine them with at least a pair of floor speakers.

Those with a standard-size media room can tray a maximum of four ceiling speakers, while large rooms can try up to six to ensure they adequately cover the space.

However, it’s advisable to try larger and more powerful ceiling speakers for halls and other extra-large spaces.

Speaker Placement

The speaker placement is influenced by your room’s shape and size, as that can affect its acoustics.

As a thumb rule, ensure that the speakers offer enough coverage for your current space and don’t crowd things.

Start with a rough design of your room, indicating your furniture’s position in relation to your TV, and decide the best place for your ceiling speakers.

It’s easier to aim for a pair behind the sitting area and another at the front, though you can change the setup to suit your room.

How Do you Connect In-Ceiling Speakers to an Amplifier?

If you choose to go with an amplifier, when connecting your passive in-ceiling speakers to the amplifier, it helps if your home is prewired for such connections.

However, doing it without any prewiring is still possible, provided there’s a crawl space in your ceiling.

Here’s how you can complete the process in four simple steps:

Step 1: Plan

Choose the position of your amplifier and take note of where you intend to place your ceiling speakers. You’ll need to measure the distance to know the amount of wire needed. Keep in mind that a stereo installation requires two runs of speaker cable.

Step 2: Run The Cables

Start by running a UL2 cable (indoor/outdoor wall-rated cable) where you plan to place your amplifier to your in-ceiling speakers’ location. That’s relatively easy to do during new construction, but if it’s not, you’ll need to drill through the support beams for the wires to reach where you need them. Remember to leave extras cable where your speakers are placed.

Step 3: Install Wall Mount Speaker Terminals

Cut the wall behind where you plan to place your amplifier and install your wall mount terminals. To install them, you’ll only need to attach the UL2 speaker cable according to the color-coded terminals and seal it in place.

Step 4: Connect your Speakers

Remove the in-ceiling speakers from their brackets and connect them appropriately according to their color-coded terminals. Using regular speaker wire, connect the amplifier to the wall-mount terminals matching the colors indicated.

To learn more, check out our article on how to connect in-ceiling speakers to an amplifier

Will Speakers Work Without An Amplifier?

Overall, the function of an amplifier is to make a skeletal sound signal louder and stronger. Based on this premise, passive speakers are said to be lacking a built-in amp system. Nonetheless, it’s still practicable to power speakers without an amp. To do this, you’ll need to connect your passive speakers to an AV receiver, a powered mixer, an active subwoofer, or a PC.

Do Ceiling Speakers Sound Good?

Yes, ceiling speakers are an excellent choice for homes or offices with high ceilings.

They provide a surround-sound experience without taking up floor space, and they don’t interfere with any views in the room.

Ceiling speakers can be used to replace your existing in-ceiling stereo speaker system, adding music to one area of your home while still allowing you to enjoy movies when watching television indoors.

How Can I Make My Ceiling Speakers Sound Better?

Speakers sound better when they are wired correctly and have a dedicated amplifier. This is because the speaker wire has to be long enough for the speakers to work as intended.

But not so long that it drags down your audio quality. In-ceiling speakers should also have their own amps because this allows you to adjust the volume of each channel without affecting other channels in your home theater system.

If you don’t want an extra amp around, use power from a wall outlet instead. Just make sure there’s nothing wrong with your wiring first!

Can You Cover Ceiling Speakers with Insulation?

Many people assume that placing insulation over the speakers will stop sound from escaping. But this is not true.

Even if you completely cover a speaker with fiberglass or rock wool, there will still be some level of noise.

To achieve the best results for soundproofing speakers in a suspended ceiling tiles system, you need an amplifier and more specifically one designed for your specific model of ceiling tile.

Some Amplifiers have special circuits built-in which prevent unwanted feedback sounds from being created when ceilings are covered up.


When planning to install in-ceiling speakers or when removing in-ceiling speakers, the question of whether you need an amplifier or if an amp is installed with the speaker depends on whether you are working with active or passive speakers. With a passive speaker, you will need an amplifier.

Others may also consider installing a receiver instead of an amplifier to control all the media systems from one unit. Keep in mind as well that some people chose to install a subwoofer with in-ceiling speakers when you are working with these setups. 

Nonetheless, in-ceiling speakers are great for surround sound when paired with other speakers in your home theater system.

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Norvan Martin is the founder of He is a professional Electronics Engineer and is passionate about home theater systems and AV electronics. BoomSpeaker was created as an online hub to share his knowledge and experiences as it relates to home theaters and home audio electronics. My email: [email protected]  Connect on Pinterest and Linkedin